1. The Talmud declares that a gathering of Tzaddikim is “good for them and good for the entire world.” Since “and your nation (the Jewish people) are all Tzaddikim,” it follows that every gathering of Jews throughout the years produces good results.1 This concept is reinforced by the Alter Rebbe’s comments in Tanya on the Zohar’s statement “The Divine presence rests over every group of ten Jews!” The Alter Rebbe writes, “I heard from my teachers2 that if an angel were standing in the presence of a gathering of ten Jews (even if they were not occupied with Torah) unlimited and infinite fear and awe would fall upon him from the Shechinah that dwells over them, to the point that his existence would be totally nullified.3

The positive effects of this gathering are further strengthened by the presence of many times ten Jews. The Talmud records an opinion that requires different additions to the Birchas HaMazon (Grace after meals) depending on the number of people attending the meal. The Halachah remains, however, that an addition is made when ten people attend, but for greater numbers no changes are made. Nevertheless the fact that there is an opinion that calls for such additions shows that a gathering of many Jews contains greater importance.

This gathering is particularly important now, when we need special blessings. Though the Talmud Yerushalmi states that on Erev Rosh Hashanah we already “dress in white and robe ourselves in white” as a sign of joy and confidence, knowing that we will prevail in the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. Furthermore, since “your nation are all Tzaddikim” and on Rosh Hashanah “Tzaddikim are immediately inscribed for life” we are definitely assured of a good year. However, we must work for an increase in these blessings, to the extent that they will bring unlimited wealth. Not only should our needs be met,4 but we should also be blessed with wealth that knows no bounds.5 Therefore, no matter how great were the blessings that we received on Rosh Hashanah, we should strive to enhance and increase their power. This can be accomplished through prayer during the ten days of Teshuva. The Rambam writes that “even though Teshuva and supplication are always good, they are particularly good and immediately acceptable in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as it is written ‘seek G‑d when he is found.’ Therefore, the ten days of Teshuva are an appropriate time to gather together. Then, the Divine Presence will rest and “in the Presence of the King we will find life.” All the negative influences will be annulled and our inscription for a good year enhanced.6

The service of Teshuva has a connection with the present occasion — a Yahrzeit. Teshuva is usually considered a service of repentance for sin. However, in Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that Teshuva-is not necessarily connected with sin, but is rather a process in which the soul connects with its G‑dly source. The verse, “the spirit returns unto G‑d,” reflects the true service of Teshuva. A Jew by nature stands above sin. Every Jew wants to fulfill Torah. This is his true desire.7 Not only the higher spiritual levels of the soul but also the aspects of the soul that are enclothed in the body want to carry out G‑d’s will. Through Teshuva, the soul becomes united with its G‑dly source. In fact the bond is strengthened by the experience of the physical plane “the essence of the Divine Presence is found in the lower world.8

Hence there are two aspects in Teshuva: the elevation of the physical from below to above, and the drawing down of spirituality and G‑dliness from above to below. These two aspects can be better understood by comparing the Jewish and gentile conceptions of Teshuva. The gentiles perceive Teshuva as repentance, regret over one’s past actions. From a Jewish perspective, Teshuva means return. Repentance implies bitterness over ones faults. Return implies a return to one’s true self. A Jew is naturally connected to Torah and Mitzvos. Any sin that he commits is only a result of his Yetzer Hora (evil inclination), that forced him to do so.9 Therefore, Teshuva means to return, to come back to our own selves, to our G‑dly source.

This service in turn brings about the higher level of Teshuva, the drawing down of G‑dliness and spirituality. Then, the G‑dly source of his soul, the aspect of soul that stands above all form and limitation, becomes manifest in the aspect of soul that is enclothed in the body.

The concept of Teshuva is also related to the rebirth of the dead. Teshuva is a figurative “rebirth of the dead.” When a Jew sins, he is considered dead, while through Teshuva he returns to life. His soul (which was also present at the time of the sin but in a non-manifest manner) becomes revealed in the life energy of his body. Then even his feet10 run to do Mitzvos.

This brings out the connection between a Yahrzeit and Teshuva. A number of times it was mentioned that a Yahrzeit should not cause sadness, but should rather motivate those left alive to perform the service of Teshuva. That service evokes the higher level of Teshuva, the manifestation of G‑dliness in all aspects of the world, and eventually brings to the rebirth of the dead.

Teshuva must also be connected with joy.11 The Rambam writes that “the joy with which a person rejoices in the performance of a Mitzvah is a great service.” This applies to every Mitzvah. How much more so should Teshuva, a Mitzvah that compensates for all the faults of our service of Torah and Mitzvos, be definitely carried out with joy. This is especially true of Teshuva out of love, when in addition to the fact that “no reminder is made of one’s sins at the day of judgment,” one’s sins are transformed into merits. These merits are even higher then the merits achieved by a Tzaddik. Since Teshuva is so powerful, it should be carried out with joy.

When the service is carried out with joy, then “joy breaks down barriers” — the barriers of the body and the barriers of the animal soul, and also the barriers of Golus. This will bring us to celebrate the Messianic redemption, when “those who lie in the dust will arise and sing” and we will enter Yerushalayim and bring the sacrifices in the Temple, speedily in our days.

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2. The three Mivtzoyim that are connected with Jewish women — the lighting of Shabbos candles, Taharas HaMishpocha, and Kashrus, have a connection to tonight’s gathering. The name Chana [Trans. Note: The Rebbe’s mother’s name was Chana] is an acronym for three Hebrew words: Challah, Nidah, and Hadlakas Hanar (lighting of the Shabbos candles). The mitzvah of Challah refers to the entire realm of Kashrus because, as Rashi explains “the entire meal is alluded to in the term ‘bread’.” On a larger scale, bread is often used as a metaphor for all of a person’s needs. Concerning Challah, the Torah declares “You shall offer up...the first of your dough” and only afterwards should to tend to our matters.12 The word Nidah stands for the Mitzvah of Taharas HaMishpocha and Hadlakas Hanar for the Mitzvah of Shabbos candles. The last mitzvah particularly aims at bringing about Sholom Bayis, peace in the home; including also peace in G‑d’s home, the world at large.

The Mitzvah of Kashrus also has a connection to peace. The Rambam teaches that everything we eat influences our character. Eating the flesh of a carnivorous animal or bird brings about greedy and cruel personality traits.13 Therefore, in order to avoid argument and insure peace it is necessary to spread the Mitzvah of eating Kosher food.

The principle of peace and particularly Sholom Bayis (peace in the home) was exemplified by Rebbetzin Chana. The Talmud teaches that when a husband goes up (for example moving from Babylon to Israel) his wife must go with him. However, when he goes down (moving from Israel to Babylon, for example), his wife does not have to go with him. In the case of Rebbetzin Chana, her husband was sent to Golus (exile) a punishment which the Sefer HaChinuch considers more severe than death. Rather than remain at home and content herself with sending packages, etc. she went with him, stayed the entire time with him, and suffered the same difficulties. She persisted in these actions even though others counseled her against it.

Her behavior should serve as an example of true “Sholom Bayis.” We can easily appreciate how necessary it is to emulate her actions, particularly now that G‑d has blessed the Jewish people and brought them to a generous country. Here especially, the relationship between husband and wife should be one of “love and friendship, harmony and fellowship.” The relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people is compared to that of man and wife. An added stress in the area of “love and friendship, etc.” between man and wife on the physical plane will bring about a greater revelation of the same qualities in the relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people. Then G‑d will return your captivity” with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.14